Porsche Cayman S PDK: so slick it even entices 911 devotees
PORSCHE CAYMAN S PDK
What exactly is it? The new generation of Porsche’s mid-engined coupe. It’s based on the new Boxster roadster launched last year and both share about 50% of their components with the larger, rear-engined 911. Cayman comes in standard 2.7-litre and 3.4-litre S guises.
Powertrain: 3.4-litre horizontally opposed six producing 239kW/370Nm. Seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automated manual, rear-wheel drive. Combined fuel consumption 8.0 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.9 seconds.
Anything interesting in the equipment list? The most interesting options for the Cayman are the performance-enhancing ones: the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system has been upgraded with four additional sensors front and rear. If PASM is fitted you can also specify Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV): it employs a mechanical differential lock and selective rear-wheel braking to further enhance steering and handling precision.
One more box to tick: The Sport Chrono package brings launch control, a Sport Plus driving mode and dynamic engine mounts, which automatically alter their damping characteristics depending on the driving situation.
Base price: $152,500
I know a lot of people who say the Porsche Cayman is a better sports car than the iconic 911.
They are people without souls, of course, although I will admit their argument may have some basis in fact. The Cayman has consistently been a driver’s dream on road and track. It’s close to a junior supercar and is certainly a super little sports car.
Conspiracy theorists point out that the mid-engined layout means fundamentally better handling than the rear-engined configuration that is such an integral part of the 911. They argue that the factory deliberately limits the performance of the Cayman to protect the flagship status of the 911.
The same engines produce less power in a Cayman than they do in a 911 and there has never been a genuine roadgoing GT or RS version of the mid-engined machine.
I don’t agree with any of that. Mostly because the 911 is one of my favourite cars and consequently I cannot be reasoned with. So don’t get me started. I could go on for (p)ages.
Cayman and 911 are poles apart in layout, market position and heritage. One is mid-engined and the other rear-engined, so they have a completely different feel: taut sprinter versus interpretative dance.
The performance hierarchy that exists between the two is simply a corollary of market position. It’s not difficult to make a car at the bottom of a range go faster than one at the top – Porsche could do it, Volkswagen could do it, any carmaker could do it. But what would be the reason?
More to the point, emotion and heritage (they might be the same thing in this case) plays a massive part in cars like these. The 911 celebrates its half century this year and has been worshipped for every one of those five decades, whereas the Cayman is a baby in both size and years: the first model was launched in 2005. It wouldn’t exist without the 911 as its component base, by the way.
I put this whole issue down to an automotive tall-poppy syndrome that is unfair to both cars. Most strange of all is the attitude among so many that admiration and enjoyment of a Cayman and/or 911 are mutually exclusive. That you have to take sides, because all sports cars are essentially trying to achieve the same thing. I don’t agree with that, either.
Different but the same
The third-generation Cayman is quite different from the model it replaces yet the formula is much the same. The proportions have changed because the wheelbase has grown 60mm but the car is only 33mm longer overall. It’s 30kg lighter and 15% more fuel efficient. The tracks are wider.
It looks much more aggressive, with massive vents in the front bumper and large intakes at the side, which feed air to the mid-mounted engine.
All of these things carry over from the latest Boxster, on which the Cayman is based. Back in 2005, Porsche went to extraordinary lengths to argue that the Cayman was not simply a Boxster with a permanent roof, even though that’s essentially what it always has been. The company seems to be a lot more relaxed on the topic now.
As it should be. If you want to make one of the world’s best mid-engined sports cars, one of the world’s best mid-engined roadsters is surely a good place to start.
The original Cayman S had a larger-capacity engine and more power than the equivalent Boxster S. But the roadster caught up in 2007 and in the latest guise the pair are virtually the same. The Cayman has just a few kilowatts more to ensure it’s a 10th of a second faster to 100km/h than the Boxster. It’s that performance hierachy thing again.
Magnificent though the Boxster is, the addition of a proper roof makes the Cayman a superior machine for the enthusiast driver. It would make sense to say that the only downside with Cayman is that you don’t get to enjoy the feral bark of that boxer engine as much as you do in an open-top car, but I’m not so sure. The powerplant is sitting less than 30cm from your ears and the closed cabin simply gives the soundtrack a different resonance.
Our Cayman S test car was fitted with the seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch transmission. Given the choice, I think I’d probably still go for the conventional manual, even though it’s a six-speed rather than a seven-speed like the 911.
The manual provides a better connection with the car; the PDK can also be a bit grumpy around town. Which is not the proper place for a Cayman S, I grant you, but a car that’s as useable and practical as this will certainly spend a lot time in an urban environment.
Give the PDK its due. It’s faster and more economical than the three-pedal manual, as well as being a thing of great beauty and engineering excellence when you’re out for a good time. Upshifts are effected with a highly appealing snap, crackle and pop. Downchanges are delivered with racing-style double clutching. It really is a car that makes you look and feel like an expert.
Practical makes perfect
My most serious reservation about modern Porsche sports cars is a rather trivial one: fussy interior styling. The Boxster/Cayman and 911 wear too many buttons and put too much bling in the driving environment. Curiously inappropriate but not a deal breaker.
Aside from driving dynamics, the other great advantage of the Cayman is relative space and practicality. For a two-seater it’s generous in the cabin and visibility is good.
With the engine in the middle, you have a cargo compartment up front and another shallow area at the back under the hatchback. Neither are massive and both are odd shapes, but the combined total of 575 litres is akin to a large sedan.
There is nothing quite like the Cayman, but it is also every bit what you’d expect of a Porsche. If it carries on this way for another 42 years, I might even feel the same way about Cayman as I do about the 911.
New engine on way but BlueSport doubtful
The much-rumoured baby Porsche roadster: will they or won’t they? They aren’t at this stage, because the four-cylinder roadster is part of a larger family of sports cars to be spun off Volkswagen’s BlueSport.
First seen as a concept in 2009, BlueSport was going to share its platform with Audi and Porsche.
The BlueSport project was on, then off again, in 2012. Both VW and Porsche had doubts about the potential global market for such a vehicle. However, this year VW design director Walter de Silva told Germany’s Auto Motor & Sport magazine that it has not been forgotten: “This is a vehicle … we always have in mind.”
What is confirmed from Porsche is a horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, which is currently in development and destined for production in the next three years. The new powerplant is likely to be 2.5 litres capacity and employ direct-injection and turbocharging.
It’s based on the maker’s current boxer-six engine and is destined for the Boxster/Cayman. It will probably replace the current 2.7-litre six, offering more power but with significantly reduced weight and superior fuel economy.
If it fits Boxster/Cayman, then the new engine is also theoretically compatible with the 911, although that will come further down the track. If at all.
The new boxer-four will be unique to Porsche and is not to be confused with the four-cylinder engines that will power next year’s Porsche Macan compact crossover. They are Volkswagen Group powerplants, shared with the Audi Q5 – on which the Macan is based.